Robert K. Greeleaf is credited for coining the phrase “servant leadership” in 1970, but the practice of servant leadership has been around much longer (What is Servant Leadership). In the fifth-century B.C., Lao-Tzu wrote, “The highest type of ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware… The Sage is self-effacing and scanty of words. When his task is accomplished and things have been completed, all the people say, ‘we ourselves have achieved it (Heskett, 2013)!'”
One great example of a servant leader is the 16th President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln. It is said that the reason that he sought the presidency was because it was the best way he could serve his fellow Americans (Welborn, 2011). Most notably, his desire to free the slaves is a prime example of his servant leadership style; Lincoln’s ultimate goal was to empower the people by giving them what they needed (Welborn, 2011).
There are very few true servant leaders that I can think of… names like Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela come to mind immediately. True servant leaders are few and far between; the desire to lead others so that they may be lifted up is a rare quality. Abraham Lincoln showed empathy, kindness, compassion, and good will toward his fellow man, making him one of the few, rare, servant leaders.
(photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk)
Heskett, J. (2013, May 1). Why Isn’t Servant Leadership More Prevalent? Forbes.com. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2013/05/01/why-isnt-servant-leadership-more-prevalent/
Welborn, K. (2011). Lincoln as a Servant Leader. The Abraham Lincoln Institute For the Study of Leadership and Public Policy. Retrieved from http://lincolninstitute.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/lincoln-as-a-servant-leader/
What is Servant Leadership? (n.d.). In Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. Retrieved from https://greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/